There’s no denying North Carolina’s history dates back to the earliest settlers. Our state really paved the way for great things. But all that history had to start somewhere, and luckily in North Carolina, these historical towns are still very much alive. The best part? You can experience all the back-in-time vibes for yourself at these 11 towns.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
Bath was incorporated in 1705 and is North Carolina's first town and port. The infamous pirate Blackbeard also called Bath home. On your next visit, stop by St. Thomas Episcopal Church, built in 1734. Bath also has several historic houses like the Van Der Veer house which dates back to 1790.
Edenton was incorporated in 1712 and quickly became one of the most popular shipping ports on the East Coast. Today, the history and beauty is still very much alive. Edenton is the birthplace of famous author and abolitionist, Harriet Jacobs. The Chowan County Courthouse is one of the State's oldest courthouses. It is still in use today and a popular place for tourist to visit. The Roanoke River Lighthouse, built in 1886 is also an extremely popular and beautifully charming destination. Even just a simple stroll through downtown, or along the waterfront, will transport you back in time.
3. New Bern
Before being settled by the English in 1710, the ancient village of Chattoka was inhabited for hundreds of years by indigenous people. After European settlers made a home here, Tryon Palace was completed in 1770 and became the first permanent capitol in North Carolina. You'll want to make your first stop in New Bern Tryon Palace, you might even catch a Revolutionary reenactment! Tryon Palace was meticulously reconstructed and still holds all its former Colonial charm. New Bern also has a number of walking tours and battlefield tours offered in the historic downtown district.
Beaufort was discoverd by settlers in 1709 and established in 1713. As a bustling port city, it attracted a number of pirates, including the notorious Blackbeard (he really loved North Carolina). Blackbeard ran his ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, aground near present day Beaufort. There are several sites in Beaufort on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit the old burying ground, Cateret County Home, Gibbs House, and the Jacob Henry House. The town of Beaufort is amazingly charming with a cool, coastal flair, and was recently named as one of the Coolest Small Towns in America by Budget Travel Magazine.
Right outside of Winston-Salem, you'll find Bethania. This Moravian settlement is actually older than Old Salem (dating back to 1759). Bethania is small but the history is rich. Visit the Jacob Loesch House and be sure to stop by Bethania Mill Village Shoppe (pictured above).
Located in Orange County, Hillsborough is a place extremely rich with history. Long before European settlers made it their home, Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years. The town was established in 1754 and home to the first ratifying convention in 1788. There's so many historical sites to see here, a walking tour is definitely your best bet for experiencing it all. Many significant historical events occured here, and many historical buildings are left intact. Some suggested places - the Alexander Dickson House, Old Orange County Court House, Ayr Mount and Margaret Lane Cemetery.
7. Brunswick Town
While not a 'town' anymore, the ruins of Brunswick Town are amazing for a day trip filled with history. This Colonial ghost town is located beside the Cape Fear River. Brunswick Town was ravaged by British Troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. Today, you can find beauty in the ruins. The remains of St. Phillips Church are used as a unique wedding venue. Fort Anderson was built atop the old village site and used during the Civil War.
8. Old Salem, Winston-Salem
The historically rich Old Salem is located right beside downtown Winston-Salem. Although you have skyline views in the distance, you really feel like you're transported into a slice of Moravian history. Most buildings date back to the 18th century. Visit the living history museum, make candles, enjoy some Moravian cookies, and marvel in the horse-drawn carriages and people dressed in period attire.
Halifax is an extremely small town, no bigger than .4 miles and home to just 234 residents (2010 census). Halifax was established in 1757 and developed into a commercial and political haven during the Revolutionary War. In 1776, North Carolina's fourth provincial congress met in Halifax and adopted the Halifax resolves. Several buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places; take a self-guided walking tour to see unique, architectural wonders (like the buildings pictured above).
Rutherfordton was established in 1787. Today you can still experience all of the history. Much of the quaint and beautiful downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While visiting Rutherfordton, visit the Rutherford City Cemetery. It is considered to be one of this most historic cemeteries in North Carolina. You'll find gravestones dating back to the 1770s. Also stop by St. John's Church, built in 1849 and St. Francis Episcopal Church, completed in 1899. St. Francis is a beautiful example of Gothic-Revival architecture.
11. Banner Elk
Banner Elk was established in 1848. Today, it is a small town with beautiful views and home to Lees McRae College. Founded in 1900, many of the original buildings still stand. Banner Elk is also in close proximity to Beech Mountain.
Who’s ready to go experience some history? A walking tour sounds fun to me! Have you been to any of these towns or live there now?